LONDON (Reuters) – Britain should commit to a 2050 net zero greenhouse gas emissions target, the government’s climate advisers said on Thursday, which could require phasing out new petrol and diesel cars by at least 2035 and Britons eating 20 percent less beef and lamb.
Climate change activists from the Extinction Rebellion protest at the Parliament Square in London, Britain May 1, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
The report, commissioned by the government last year, comes after weeks of protest by climate group Extinction Rebellion, which carried out a campaign of non-violent civil disobedience with the aim of stopping what it calls a global climate crisis.
Britain has a target to cut greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 80 percent compared with 1990 levels by 2050 but campaigners say this does not go far enough to meet pledges made under the 2015 Paris climate agreement to try to limit a rise in global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“The UK can end its contribution to global warming within 30 years by setting an ambitious new target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050 (on 1990 levels),” the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) report said.
The new target is achievable with existing technology but can only be met if the government ramps up climate policies, the CCC said.
A current goal to phase out new petrol and diesel cars by 2040 would come too late and would need to be brought forward to at least 2035 or 2030 if possible, the report said.
More renewable and low-carbon electricity would be needed to meet the target and technology to capture and store or use carbon dioxide emissions from industrial sectors must be adopted, the report added.
Households would need to be weaned off natural gas heating and switch to low-carbon alternatives such as hydrogen or heat pumps.
Britons should be encouraged to consume around 20 percent less beef, lamb and dairy products, while growth in air travel would likely need to be curbed unless the aviation sector adopts low-carbon fuels such as biofuel or electrified air travel.
The cost of meeting the new target would be around 1-2 percent of Britain’s GDP or tens of billions of pounds a year. The committee said the Treasury should undertake a review of how the transition should be funded.
It said the cost of delay, or inaction, would be much higher.
Legislation would need to go to parliament before a new climate target could become law.
CCC Chief Executive Chris Stark told journalists the law could be in place before international climate talks in Chile at the end of the year since there is cross-party consensus in Britain on the need to act.
Britain setting a net zero target could encourage other countries to do the same, and increase the likelihood of the Paris climate target being met, he said.
Climate scientists have warned that failure to limit global temperatures at 1.5 degrees would lead to rising sea levels, catastrophic weather events such as droughts and floods and the loss of species.
Reporting by Susanna Twidale, editing by Louise Heavens